Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Syracuse men’s basketball looks to right the ship against Louisville Wednesday

Syracuse forward Justin Taylor (orange, 5) celebrates after a three during SU's loss to Wake Forest.
Syracuse forward Justin Taylor (orange, 5) celebrates after a three during SU's loss to Wake Forest.

Syracuse men’s basketball (14-8, 5-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) looks to return to the win column when Louisville (7-15, 2-9 ACC) comes to town on Wednesday.

The game tips off just over 24 hours after the Orange announced that they had dismissed forward Benny Williams from the team.

The junior was the longest-tenured member of the team. Williams was suspended from the team for a violation of team rules, missing the first two games of the regular season. Williams also sat out in SU's game against Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational for an undisclosed violation of team rules.

Now, the Maryland native’s SU career comes to an abrupt end after the Orange’s 99-70 loss to Wake Forest on Saturday - a game in which Williams received a technical foul for throwing the ball away from a referee and later bumped shoulders with Autry on his way to the bench after being subbed out.

Williams wasn’t the only one who didn’t have a great time against the Demon Deacons. Syracuse head coach Adrian Autry was beside himself after Saturday’s 29-point defeat and explained as much with a short but scathing opening statement at his postgame press conference.

“I’d like to apologize to our fans and our university for that performance,” Autry said. “It’s unacceptable. Won’t be tolerated, won’t allow it.”

Junior Demon Deacon guard Hunter Sallis led both teams with 24 points and knocked down four of his five threes. Backcourt-mate Kevin Miller added 21, and Cameron Hildreth logged a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. In total, Wake Forest shot a scorching 66% from the floor and 63% from beyond the arc.

On the Orange side, the highest scorer was JJ Starling with 15. Syracuse shot just 25% from three while surrendering 99 points, the second most allowed by SU on the season. The loss drops Syracuse under .500 in ACC play, and into a three-way tie with Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech for eighth in the conference.

When asked if there were any bright spots for his squad, head coach Adrian Autry didn’t mince words.

“Nothing was good about this,” Autry said. “Nothing at all.”

Forward Justin Taylor offered at least a tiny glimmer of hope, knocking down two triples to finish with 10 points. The sophomore hadn’t made a three since January 16.

Coming back home to take on Louisville may be exactly what the doctor ordered for a reeling Syracuse squad, but the win won’t be guaranteed. The Cardinals are 2-9 in ACC play, tied for last in the conference, but are coming off their best win of the season over Florida State.

Louisville came in riding an eight-game losing streak, while the Seminoles had handled Syracuse and given ACC top dog North Carolina a scare in their previous two contests. It was the Cardinals, however, that came away with a statement 101-92 win.

U of L has three players – guard trio Mike James, Skyy Clark, and Tre White – that average over 12 points per game, but plenty of other players on the roster are liable to take over a game. Against Florida State, it was forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield who led the way with 29, with guard Ty-Laur Johnson pitching in 27 off the bench.

Syracuse has won its last two meetings with Louisville, holding the Cardinals to exactly 69 points in both. SU head coach Adrian Autry plans to do whatever he can to remedy his squad’s ailing defense and slow the Cardinals down.

“We didn’t play any defense at all,” Autry said after SU’s latest loss. “We didn’t pressure the ball, we didn’t fight to get in front, we didn’t do anything.”

Syracuse head coach Adrian Autry (left) advises guard Quadir Copeland (right) in SU's loss to Wake Forest. Copeland finished with 11 points off the bench.
Syracuse head coach Adrian Autry (left) advises guard Quadir Copeland (right) in SU's loss to Wake Forest. Copeland finished with 11 points off the bench.

When asked how his team would fix its defense, Autry responded simply: “We’re gonna work.”

The Cardinals’ defense, however, has struggled far more mightily this year. The squad ranks dead last in the ACC in points allowed per game, point differential, and blocked shots.

Syracuse now sits at 84th in the NCAA’s NET rankings. With just one Quad-I win to its name and the lower quad losses piling up, barring a miracle ACC Tournament run, the Orange’s chances at a March Madness bid are slim. Still, a Louisville squad over 100 spots below them provides the ‘Cuse a golden opportunity to get back in the win column.

Syracuse takes on Louisville on Wednesday. You can catch all the action on 88.3 FM at 7 p.m. McClurg Remodeling Countdown to Tipoff begins at 6:30 p.m.